It's easy to pass by the Mayfair Center on East 14th Avenue and Krameria Street and not take a second look. Over the past several decades, the strip mall has fallen victim to disrepair, transient tenants and a crumbling parking lot -- all of which has left the space worse for wear. But beneath a layer of peeling paint, developer Jamie Harris saw a mid-century modern beauty.
"The thought of knocking it down came up, and one of the things that you can build in its place is [a structure that's] up to five stories -- up to 130 apartment units," says Harris. "I'm a longtime Denver resident -- I was actually born in Denver, and it just didn't seem like that was what needed to be done. I don't mean to be too esoteric, but it didn't feel right to cram a bunch of units into a neighborhood. I think it's a cool neighborhood."
And the neighborhood definitely agrees. Wayne Sirmons, president of Mayfair Neighbors Inc., says he was overjoyed to hear what Harris had in store.
"I'm really excited to see it revitalized and I think we're all really happy that he's not going to knock it down and put in another strip mall," he says. "He seemed very respectful of the neighborhood and the needs. [The architecture is] a very distinct taste -- but I look at it and think, oh, I want to live in that building."
The plaza is home to a 7-Eleven and a handful of other tenants, and Harris is taking his time filling the vacant spots. The only new tenant planned is a restaurant, the Garlic Knot.
"I have ideas for things that I would want to put in. But I really want to put in, if I can, what the neighborhood wants," says Harris. "It serves me in the end because I have happy tenants. I live in Lowry and I used to live in Congress Park and...those neighborhoods are so great because you can walk down to 12th and Madison and get a burger or have a beer or do whatever. That's just what I'm trying to get in here."
Many of the renovations will involve creating a place for people to gather, including benches, dog-friendly furnishings, at least one patio and an extension of the walkway.
"King Soopers and Safeway (across the street from the center) are great, and the shops on Colfax are fine. But you kind of go to them, get out of your car, go in, get your stuff, come out and you leave," says Harris. "What the neighborhood didn't have is what I'm trying to bring to it -- a place where you can go and know your neighbors.
"I just want it to be more of a community spot. I don't think by having this center transformed and improved that all of a sudden, this is going to be the center of the universe," he adds with a laugh. "But a center to improve the area -- [the location] has been neglected for so long, there's no reason why it's not better than it is."
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Harris also says he's been misquoted in other reports about the renovation cost of $2.25 million dollars. He says the project will only cost several hundred thousand dollars, but he won't know until the Mayfair Center project is actually in progress.